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"Reich Citizens" - Waldorf Schools and the German Right: Past and Present

by Peter Staudenmaier

Twenty years ago, in an interview with the German newspaper the daily newspaper, anthroposophist Arfst Wagner warned against the influx of far-right currents within the anthroposophical movement. Though his comments raised some eyebrows among Rudolf Steiner’s followers, there was little noticeable effect on anthroposophy and its institutions or worldview. Two decades later, in January 2015, the official leadership of the German federation of Waldorf schools seems to have suddenly started paying attention. A new brochure has appeared offering an analysis of the appeal that Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and other anthroposophist endeavors continue to have for segments of the far right. Although it is a welcome step in the right direction, it is a small step, and there is a long way still to go.

The twenty-four page brochure has already attracted attention from The mirror and other media; a number of sarcastic commentaries have appeared online. Its focus is on the so-called Reich Citizens' Movement or “Reich citizens movement,” an amorphous collection of disaffected Germans who claim that the old empire or rich - dismantled in 1918 and destroyed in 1945 - still exists. Thus the current German state, in the eyes of these would-be “Reich citizens,” is illegitimate. In this old-new ideology of the Reich, as the brochure points out, esoteric beliefs and right-wing radicalism go hand in hand.

Why would Waldorf officials care? A few months ago there was a minor media scandal when the principal of a Waldorf school in northern Germany was fired because of his involvement in the Reich citizens movement. The incident led to headlines announcing "Nazi suspicions at Waldorf school." This is by no means the first such case at a Steiner school, but this time Waldorf leaders have responded differently: They have offered a substantive critical engagement with the ideological roots of the affair, attempting at last to discern the latent affinities between anthroposophy and the far right. From this perspective, the brochure is an encouraging if overdue departure from previous practice.

Delineating the Reich citizen ideology is no simple task. The newspaper The time has captured it aptly as a mixture of "conspiracy theory and antisemitism in the name of peace." The new brochure provides the following description: “a marketplace of mismatched ideological components” combining “antisemitism, vegetarianism, belief in UFOs, conspiracy theories, and feel-good esotericism,” in which “proclamations of humanist sentiment and populist nationalism can merge together. ” This is not a uniquely German phenomenon. In a US context, the movement is comparable in some ways to the “sovereign citizens” subculture with its anti-government resentments, who dream of “freedom from taxes, unlimited wealth, and life without licenses, fees or laws,” in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its more extreme versions, such as Posse Comitatus organizations or the notion that Americans live under a “Zionist Occupation Government,” are often intertwined with regional and ethnic-racial separatism.

In Germany, beliefs like these fit readily with anti-American antipathy. The historical reasons for this are important to keep in mind. Purveyors of Reich ideology mix these elements with Nordic mythology and invocations of Atlantis, with enthusiasm for alternative currencies, skepticism toward globalization, and a longing for peace and harmony in a world marked by violence and upheaval. It is an unsurprisingly inconsistent worldview. While much of the Reich citizens ’literature is obsessed with the Allies (above all the US) as supposed occupying powers in Germany, their ire is largely reserved for the European Union. Nebulous denunciations of the evils of global capitalism rub elbows with hymns to the inviolability of private property.

Like its counterparts elsewhere, the Reich citizens movement is a classic instance of left-right crossover and a symptom of profound political confusion. Its adherents recycle hoary antisemitic legends and even anti-Masonic conspiracy myths from the era after the First World War. There are numerous esoteric connections. Waldorf schooling as well as biodynamic farming remain especially attractive within this segment of the far-right milieu. Perhaps the most important part of the brochure is thus the section on Waldorf, Anthroposophy, and Nazism.

Here the brochure makes a clear call for taking history seriously, for understanding the past in order to understand the present. Even if this is framed self-interestedly as the far right posing a danger to the Waldorf movement, it represents a notable advance over the usual anthroposophist strategy of avoiding the issue. Still, the brochure’s version of the history of Waldorf schooling in Nazi Germany continues the familiar line, strongly emphasizing Nazi persecution of Waldorf while neglecting the many points of collusion between Waldorf leaders and the Nazi regime. Though the brochure cites the important research of Karen Priestman, Ida Oberman, and Wenzel Götte on Waldorf education in the Nazi era, it fails to include the critical findings these studies helped bring to light. And when the brochure does mention Waldorf cooperation with Nazi officials, it is solely under the rubric of “compromise”; there is no mention whatsoever of the enthusiasm within the Waldorf movement for Nazism’s new order.

Beyond these historical inadequacies, the brochure suffers from a myopic perspective on the current salience of right-wing themes within the Waldorf world. As a striking example, it does not mention the former Waldorf teacher and neo-Nazi leader Andreas Molau by name (though it does refer to him obliquely and defensively), despite the fact that Molau's career as a Waldorf teacher who was simultaneously active in the radical right - for eight full years, from 1996 to 2004 - perfectly embodies the very problem the brochure is meant to confront. Nor is there any mention of the role of Lorenzo Ravagli, a current prominent Waldorf leader and editor of the major Waldorf journal, in nursing such links to the far right, whether in the case of Molau or of anthroposophist Holocaust denier Gennady Bondarev.

Needless to say, there is no examination anywhere in the brochure of Steiner's own considerable contributions to the same myths propagated by the Reich ideology. Conspiracy narratives loom large in Steiner’s works, as well as in the publications of his follower such as Karl Heise, and there is a lengthy and unfortunate history of anthroposophist antisemitism. Although the brochure makes appreciable strides toward a more historically informed and politically aware treatment of the topic, the aversion to a full and honest reckoning persists, reflecting the longstanding Waldorf allergy against tracing these dynamics back to Steiner himself.

These failings are hardly peculiar to anthroposophy. Similar critiques have been lodged, with reason, against followers of Silvio Gesell and of C. H. Douglas and social credit. Steiner was not the only would-be world savior to draw on dubious sources, and his latter-day disciples are not the only ones to ignore their own troubled legacy and blithely disregard its ongoing repercussions. But the standing of Waldorf schools within the broader field of alternative education indicates why such concerns arouse greater attention. The problem is not one of potential embarrassment. The problem is not that Waldorf’s carefully cultivated image might be damaged. It is not a matter of image at all. The problem is that the underlying partial compatibility between Waldorf values ​​and the ideals of the far right has gone unnoticed and unaddressed for far too long.

However fitfully, that has begun to change. A younger generation of anthroposophists and Waldorf supporters is starting to challenge the traditional historical compliance of their forebears. New perspectives are opening up in which a sober assessment of anthroposophy’s unsettled past no longer induces anxiety and hostility. The new approach faces intense opposition, and a lot of difficult work lies ahead if the Waldorf movement is ever going to deal straightforwardly with its own history. A brochure like this one demonstrates that such an approach is possible, while also showing how much more still needs to be done.

Peter Staudenmaier (Photo: private) is Junior Professor of Modern German History at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). In 2010 he received his doctorate from Cornell University on the subject of “Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900-1945.”, Published by Brill.

See also:

Anthroposophists and "Reich Citizens" Movement. Approaches and demarcations

The separation of spirits. Interim assessment of the anthroposophical culture of remembrance

Anthroposophical historical revisionism. How England defeated the German national spirit

"Yes, of course there was tension" - Interview with Peter Staudenmaier on racism, Nazism and anthroposophy

January 28th, 2015 at 12:00 pm7 comments

Anthroposophical Reformation. Dogmas of Liberal Anthroposophy

“Anthroposophy in the 20th century is much more than the administration of tradition. The innovations include, above all, a redefinition of Rudolf Steiner's role: Today, many consider him less than the guru or the initiate who has opened up a system of ultimate truths, but rather as a key to enabling the individual search for meaning. Here I see one of the dramatic shifts compared to the first decades of the interpretation of his person and his work. "
- Helmut Zander: How can you talk to Rudolf Steiner?

The traditional anthroposophical milieu is dying out. However, an aging population and dwindling membership of the “Anthroposophical Society” (cf. “Sergej, you gave yourself”) do not suggest that Steiner's ideology is finally disappearing. Helmut Zander undoubtedly correctly assumes that the Steiner interpretation will be individualized and pluralized - in purely selective appropriation, mixed with other esoteric world views or through the language barriers of a globalizing anthroposophical community. I also think that - for the German-speaking area - one can certainly see ideological contours in which some “individualization” and “pluralization” level off. The alternative is not: orthodox anthroposophy or some kind of erosion. “Liberal” anthroposophy, which as such detaches itself from traditional anthroposophical dogmas, is not identical with the invisibility of anthroposophy. Rather, dogmas of their own are formed here: Emphasis is placed on a kitschy Steiner “early work”, which is supposed to apply as the only legitimate basis of judgment for the entire interpretation of Steiner. Furthermore, Steiner's higher beings and worlds are placed in the subject as images and illustrations. Finally, Steiner's self-interpretations are also relativized: the “Mystery of Golgotha” is turned into biographical-psychological phases of the guru.

“SKA” 7: In the introductions to Christian Clement's critical Steiner edition, the Reformed Steiner reading can be found in detail

These reinterpretations trigger sharp, mostly unfair hostilities in the Orthodox camp. Indeed, the liberal anthroposophists react (consciously or unconsciously) to the inaccessibility of Steiner's convoluted esoteric work, and the Orthodox cannot raise doubts about it. Of course, the liberals go just as wrong when anthroposophical esotericism seems to them to be just a nice, richly illustrated illustration or methodical extension of the “early work”. In some places, however, an anthroposophical reformation is quietly preparing: Anyone who no longer considers Steiner's statements about “higher worlds” to be directly evident is more open to historical interpretations or punctual criticism with regard to them. On the whole, of course, this neo-anthroposophy is no less ideological than the orthodox variant, as can be shown by its most prominent advocate, the Germanist Christian Clement.

Although the authors cited in the following would undoubtedly not see themselves as a homogeneous group and each would take positions that others below would contradict, the following points seem to me suitable to summarize the credo of a small but growing wing of Steiners fans:

  • Depotentation of the content: What Steiner said about angels, elementary beings and the world ages is not content-wise, at least not meant very seriously, but a methodical or heuristic illustration of completely different philosophies.
  • Prospective instead of retrospective interpretation: If the orthodox judge the life of the pre-theosophical Steiner through the eyes of the theosophist, the liberals turn the tables. Steiner's statements after his turn around 1902 are reduced to the earlier work.
  • Radical self-interpretation: like any religious innovation, this does not see itself as such. The neo-anthroposophists claim to return to the “real” Steiner, to see “it” as “it was really meant”.
  • Individualization: The classic Steiner disciple sees himself in a very fixed cosmos of supersensible forces and worlds, the liberal, who does not believe in them, seeks those powers in the individual. Everyone has to connect with them in a new, creative and individual way.

Again: Steiner shortening in the "SKA"

Sometimes you feel compelled to take embarrassing steps: for example today I and the nasty step of agreeing to Lorenzo Ravagli, that defender of Steiner's racial doctrine and would-be critic of anthroposophical criticism, who, to top it all, pathetically preaches a (re -) “ascent to myth” . (cf. Ravagli, the races and the rights) Now, however, Ravagli has written a chatty review of Volume 7 of the Critical Steiner Edition (SKA) published by Christian Clement, which points to the central deficit in Clement's approach. In this volume Steiner's "Writings for Knowledge Training" have been edited: Instructions, exercises and descriptions for his "spiritual students" to begin the path into the "higher worlds". Clement's masterful commentary contextualizes many of Steiner's statements, provides detailed information on the sources from which Steiner drew (without naming them, of course) and goes into contexts that go beyond the published writings.

But. In the foreword and said commentary on the passage, Clement approaches Steiner's concept of “higher knowledge” in a manner similar to Ravagli's approach to Steiner's racism: Everything is somehow meant quite differently. In concrete terms, Clement apparently means that Steiner does not know any objects of higher knowledge. All the auras, beings and forces that Steiner describes are merely images and symbolizations. (See on Volume 7 of the Critical Steiner Edition) Clement: “One does not have to regard the 'lotus flowers', 'astral bodies' or 'threshold guardians' described by Steiner as figures that he himself, like Faust, especially in the sense of his early work his Helena, from whom the 'incense mist' conjured up his own imagination? ”(SKA 7, XXVIII) That would perhaps be affirmed if one turned it anthroposophically critical in the sense that Steiner's“ clairvoyance ”was idiosyncratic projections and auto-suggestions . But that is not Clement's claim. Although he accuses the guru of not remaining a philosopher, i.e. Steiner after 1900, that he did not behave as he did before 1900 - he then tries, largely without evidence, to sell Steiner's esoteric program as a mere mythological illustration of his previous philosophy.

What Steiner said about the “higher worlds” is merely “a representation of the philosophy of consciousness in the spirit of Kant and Fichte, i.e. ... a phenomenology of the content of human consciousness. According to Steiner, the only being that a person encounters in meditation is ultimately his own, and that as an individual-personal and universal-absolute at the same time. " (ibid., XXIX) Apart from the fact that Fichte and especially Kant must be at least partially defended against this ascription, Steiner must also be defended against this distortion: that he himself saw meditation or “higher research” merely as a self-encounter of a universal subject , not only cannot be proven, but Steiner himself explicitly says the opposite on various occasions. In this regard, you can rely on Lorenzo Ravagli, who also cannot understand Clement's Steiner distortion, even if from the orthodox-anthroposophical point of view:

“I see no way of disguising such utterances from Steiner as mythologizing idioms that he would only have resorted to because his audience was too stupid to understand the language of the Enlightenment. Rather, this attempt at rationalization appears to me as a kind of relapse into Feuerbachian anthropomorphism.To describe the pictorial form of representation emerging from the imaginative consciousness as a relapse into a pre-scientific consciousness contradicts the entire logic and systematics of the anthroposophy developed by Steiner after 1900…. Even in the »Levels of Higher Knowledge«, which Clement also publishes and comments on, Steiner clearly states that the world that can be reached through the imagination - which therefore does not have to be a dualistic metaphysical background - is one higher reality acts as that which is accessible to the objective consciousness of ordinary science. ”(Ravagli: Anthroposophy: a“ relapse ”into myth?)

Ravagli, of course, has his own share in the genesis of the Steiner image represented by Clement and others (cf.Ravagli: Der esoterische Schulungsweg in Rudolf Steiner's early work, in: ders. (Ed.): Yearbook for Anthroposophical Criticism, 74ff.), At least represents meanwhile, however, even his very dedicated remythologization approach. His reservation against Clement is not in the impetus, but in the concrete criticism of Clement's interpretation of Steiner. Clement, on the other hand, replied to my accusation that he made an ideological instead of an analytical Steiner interpretation, defending the latter as "ideogenetic" and as follows:

"In doing so, I am not only referring to Steiner's epistemological arguments up to 1894, but also and above all to the philosophical-conscious texts from 1901 and 1902 and the one formulated by Steiner in them (and then called by me in the introduction to SKA 5)" ideogenetic constitution ”. In this approach, however, I do not see an “ideological shortening”, but a legitimate method of Steiner's interpretation, which on the one hand can be easily justified by Steiner and also has the advantage that an inner continuity between Steiner's early philosophical work can be established without difficulty and its later esotericism can be asserted. In this way one can have Steiner interpret Steiner without coming into conflict with the requirements of critical thinking. "(Clement: Ideological vs. ideogenetic Steiner Interpretation)

In fact, after 1902, Steiner can be interpreted coherently solely with his previous writings, but probably (at least with Clement) at the price that all of his later pronouncements are not taken seriously or are reduced to earlier ones. Indeed, Clement tries to read Steiner with his mystic writing from 1902, according to which the mystical contents are human projections in which something universal resonates: “Then, applying Steiner's conception to his own thought production, also his own philosophical ideas as well as the contents of Steiner's esotericism, i.e. the contents of imaginative, inspirational and intuitive consciousness, are understood in the same way? I cannot see what can be ideological about this interpretation… ”(ibid.) Since Steiner's views around and after 1902 (and until 1925) continued to develop, rearrange and shift at breakneck speed, it is at best thoughtless, everything to 1902 arbitrarily to his positions around 1902 reduce. But if that is not a legitimate approach, I would have to brand any hermeneutic approach as ideological, said Clement.

The tremendous editorial value of the “SKA” remains undiminished - yes, in his foreword to the volume with Steiner's mystic writings, Clement's approach to interpretation also proved to be appropriate (cf. Die Mystik im Aufgang), probably because, fortunately, texts up to 1902 were examined. In my review I have quoted some statements by Steiner that clashed Clement's attempts at reinterpretation, Ravagli's review names a few more, and more could easily be found. Clement does not manage to understand Steiner's statements about “higher worlds” as such, he probably sees a dualism in them - that for Steiner monistic coherent spiritual beings with different ontological structures and tasks existed, does not seem to be an interpretation option that he would have thought through even heuristically.

On the ideogenesis of the reductionist Steiner reading

I contend that Clement's hermeneutic blind spot, for its part, is not in a vacuum. In any case, his Steiner reading is by no means new, but has long been represented in a certain anthroposophical milieu that also applauded the loudest for his remarks: the liberal-anthroposophical environment of Info3. There, Felix Hau, although labeled as a “working hypothesis”, declared the theosophical Steiner to be a disguised extension of the early Steiner as early as 2005, which caused a vicious outcry in the anthroposophical mainstream.

“At no point in time” did Steiner carry “angel hierarchies, two Jesus boys, etheric bodies and soratic powers as views”, according to Hau, but rather “only later expressed himself in this particular way”. And again:

“Incidentally, I am not of the opinion - and never was - that Steiner abandoned his ideas, substantially modified them or only afterwards developed the conception that characterizes him in his connection with theosophy; on the contrary [namely that theosophy] ... offered a field in which he could develop and elaborate his very own ideas into views in peace of mind - only at the price of pouring them into a certain form of expression ... ”(Felix Hau: Rudolf Steiner integral, in: Info3 5/2005, 30)

House colleagues Christian Grauer and Sebastian Gronbach have made similar claims, in more detail. Christian Grauer used this to form his own, constructivist-solipsist philosophical approach, which made it necessary to discuss it himself. (cf. Grauer: In the beginning was the distinction. Der ontological monism, Frankfurt 2007, see also Grauer on this blog: The miracle weapon of every fundamentalist) Gronbach, who evangelizes himself as a spiritual teacher, sees Steiner's angels etc. as mere symbols, the Steiner invented as a universal didact for educational reasons in order to cultivate the soul:

“The archangels, the adversary powers Lucifer and Ahriman, the elemental beings, in the end also Christ (I'll come to that), these are all Steiner's ingenious and poetic descriptions of specific forms and states of the human inner world. It is the scientific method of symbolization [!], A device for pouring complicated human ideas into a popular form with which we can enter into a living relationship beyond thinking. This is how ideas find their way into our soul. ... Is the Archangel Michael just a symbol? He is a representative of an idea created by Steiner, by me, by you. He is a being because Steiner, I and you want it, and he is only a symbol when we end this relationship. This is exactly the second truth for me: it is time to end this relationship. Because it stands for something, but this something, the idea, what the wearer wore through time, must now become my business. "(Sebastian Gronbach: Missions. Spirit Moves Everything, Stuttgart 2008, 97f)

My article was titled “Anthroposophical Reformation” with no meaning whatsoever: The Protestant Reformation copied the Church and Councils as relevant institutions for Bible exegesis and gave the individual believer the script. The anthroposophical Reformation does away with the immediacy claim of Steiner's texts and radically makes the recipient the focal point. The reader has to find the idea laid down in Steiner's descriptions, understand it and adopt it individually.

What a radical break from the anthroposophical mainstream there is in this view can be illustrated with another example as a makeshift: Info3 Chief Executive Jens Heisterkamp. His concern is "a new reflection on an original," non-theosophical "anthroposophy, for which Steiner's development after the mystic writings remains an improper phase. (Heisterkamp: Anthroposophical Spirituality, 124) Heisterkamp is enthusiastic about a spiritual evolution of culture, but it runs in chapters like “magical”, “mythical”, “rational” and “integral”. Steiner's evolution of worlds, beings and races is viewed as a heuristic, but ultimately failed attempt to “visualize” this cultural history.

"Obviously, Steiner saw no other way of representation here than to portray the effectiveness of consciousness as an evolutionary force with recourse to the imagery of 'higher beings'. The result is extremely richly pictorial narratives, especially in his book Secret Science in Outline, which seem to contradict his philosopher's maxim of renouncing extra-human ’and otherworldly’ spiritual forces. " (ibid., 87f.)

The idea of ​​reincarnation is also true esthetic affirmed, but ontologically depotentiated: whether one would really and literally be born again does not seem to be so important to the Info3 editor-in-chief. (ibid., 75f.) Heisterkamp's approach seems to me to be the most sympathetic of all the lectures, because it goes wrong dedicated ekclectic: "‘ Distinguish the essential from the insignificant ’- this rule of life formulated by Steiner himself must also be taken to heart when looking at his own work." (ibid., 36) Here Steiner is properly rewritten, largely excluding the theosophical content (but not all esoteric content). This has great advantages, because Heisterkamp says goodbye to racism and anti-Semitism, which in current orthodox anthroposophy are either still virulent or at least a latent fund. This shows the indignant reaction of the crusader Holger Niederhausen to Heisterkamp's book: “One concrete Spiritual with real beings will simply no longer be endured. Neither, however, is a concrete story that, in addition to the history of consciousness, always knew certain peoples, each of which allowed specific impulses to flow into human development. But all of this is "discriminatory" ... ", so Niederhausen.

Interpretative consequences

The parallels between Clement, Hau, Gronbach and Heisterkamp are striking: Steiner's “exploration” of spiritual worlds becomes an image, a metaphor, a clothing for positions that he represented before or around 1900. Steiner's late work is so radically depotentated that it can only be legitimately approached on the basis of the early philosophical work (or what is put into it). All four would dismiss it as ridiculous to believe that Steiner really spoke of angels. In addition, there is a strange concept of monism, which is supposed to be incompatible with angels. In fact, the “spiritual world” that Steiner developed from 1903/4, for example in the first fragment of his “secret science” (cf.GA 89), is not an ontological counterpart to matter or human consciousness, but the latter can be part of the recognize internally differentiated monistic spirit cosmos.

Steiner's reinterpretation is itself anthroposophy. Anthroposophy, which has become aware of the contradictions of Steiner's early and late work and which therefore ultimately tries to grab the incommensurable in the most accessible way and to drive out the contradiction through an exegetical monopoly of the "early" Steiner. The orthodox camp is closer to Steiner, insofar as it takes the esoteric worldview seriously, but persecutes the liberal Steinerdeuter with great anger. This will have to be explained psychologically, because in neo-anthroposophy, however wrong, it becomes clear that Steiner's work requires interpretation - while the orthodox are superstitious that Steiner's words suddenly “lead to the truth”. (Niederhausen: Untruth and Science, 29) In the face of such nonsense, the high level of reflexivity that separates the reformed from the traditional anthroposophists becomes apparent.

Of course, the orthodox Steiner admirers cheerfully buy Steiner's racism and his conspiracy ideology. In the eyes of its anthroposophical would-be critics, Christian Clements Steiner Edition becomes the diabolical plan of Mormon-Jesuit-Masonic world conspiracies, which of course have nothing better to do than to throw heretical Steiner interpretations on the market to destroy anthroposophy. (see Willy, Thomas and the wolf in sheep's clothing)

Understand thinking instead of clairvoyantly perceiving

Info3 and Clement may be the most prominent mouthpieces of the new Steiner reading, but some other anthroposophists are also aware of the underlying problems. David Marc Hoffmann, head of the Steiner Archive (and formerly the Basler Schwabe Verlag, to which we owe an excellent investigation of Steiner's relationship to the Nietzsche Archive) also tries to cut through the “early work” into the esoteric later work. To be clear, Hoffmann's statements are among the best in the anthroposophical milieu since Steiner's time. He recognizes “blatant contradictions” and is methodologically much more careful than Clement. Hoffmann's image of the enemy is also called dualism; he too considers it necessary to prove Steiner's monism; he too wants to get Steiner out of the esoteric corner. However, Hoffmann does not necessarily see Steiner's esoteric thought structure as a "visualization" of previously worked out content, but hopes to create continuity by presenting the "higher knowledge" of the "late" Steiner as an extension of the content under the methodical premises of the "early":

“The blatant contradictions between Steiner's earlier atheism and his later esoteric Christianity appear in a completely different light under the aspect of the method. If perception and concept are the yardstick for knowledge, then everything is just a question of the limits of perceptions and the conceptual inventory used by the knowing individual. With expanded perceptions and new concepts, there is suddenly a recognizable reality that was previously imperceptible and unthinkable - without the recognized method of knowledge being disclosed. From this point of view, the (supposed) esotericism of anthroposophy can also be relativized. If anthroposophy may appear to an unprepared or naive believer as spiritualism or even dualism, on closer inspection it can turn out to be a monistic understanding of the world ... In this sense, the spiritual side of the world can be grasped thinking rather than clairvoyantly. ”(David Marc Hoffmann : Rudolf Steiner's Hadesfahrt and Damascus Experience. From Goetheanism, Individualism, Nietzscheanism, Anarchism and Antichristism to Anthroposophy, in: Uhlenhoff: Anthroposophy in Past and Present, 118)

In a certain sense we are dealing here with an anthroposophical grassroots revolution. Steiner himself notoriously emphasized that he wanted to be understood instead of being worshiped in faith. Of course, this is exactly what orthodox anthroposophists would emphasize without questioning a single letter of his work. The neo-anthroposophists succeed in doing this more credibly, because with the negation of an objectively existent "spiritual world" they only have one thing: the individual who Steiner also conjured up, who wants to take care of himself all the more - instead of the ontological structure of the spiritual world, he has to Adept now hope for the methodical structure of his thinking.

Mystery of Golgotha

This subjectification is also transferred to Steiner himself. In his autobiography he does not describe his spiritual turn after the turn of the century as such, but certainly how he saved himself from internal crises and demonic forces by immersing himself in esoteric Christianity, which he was of course able to perceive clairvoyantly:

“During the time in which I made the statements about Christianity that contradicted the word content according to what was later, it was also that its true content began to develop germinally in my soul as an inner cognitive phenomenon. At the turn of the century the germ was unfolding more and more. Before this turn of the century stood the test of the soul described above. In my soul development, the spiritual confession before the Mystery of Golgotha ​​in the most serious celebratory celebration was important. ”(GA 28, 388)

With our anthroposophical reformers, the visionary “confessing” becomes a kind of psychological one Being-passed-through the "Mystery of Golgotha". Instead of Steiner having watched the sacrifice of Christ after completing the soul test, even having become a servant of the Christ “being”, this autobiographical utterance becomes a biographical narrative. In this interpretation, Steiner's spiritual turn around 1900 does not culminate in his spiritual presence on Golgotha. Rather, the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ are psychologized into the pattern according to which Steiner's early idealism also went through an atheistic "death" in order to be resurrected as a new idealism after 1900.Hoffmann uses the book "Christianity as a Mystical Fact", which Clement also elevated to a new canon, to interpret Steiner's much later autobiographical assertion.

“What Steiner experienced in the described 'isms' (monism, individualism, egoism, anarchism) and his opposition to Christianity is a complete loss of all old values, a loss of man and the world, a moment where the spirit for him all life declared for death '. Steiner went through a trip to Hades described in this way. The fact that a new world, a new sun and a new earth have opened up to him can be described as a kind of Damascus experience. "(Hoffmann: Rudolf Steiners Hadesfahrt, loc. Cit., 112)

János Darvas, who criticizes anthroposophical anti-Semitism and tries to counteract it with a supra- or interreligious anthroposophy, sees it similarly:

“In his philosophy of freedom and the other epistemological writings, Rudolf Steiner completely excluded all previous traditions. This happened not only in the sense of a methodical lack of intellectual presuppositions, but as a thoroughly existential decoupling ... If such a decoupling is carried out in this existential sense, then a total zero point is reached, which initially erases the determinations of previous influences by tradition. In the way in which this zero point is experienced, however, it remains shaped by this tradition ... It [Steiner's 'Mystery of Golgotha'] can itself be experienced as zero and the beginning. The spiritual death experience in going through the night of the agnostic, existentially experienced 'God-is-dead' is contrasted with the 'God-is-dead' of the crucified on Golgotha ​​as a correspondence, admittedly in such a way that a quality is experienced in overcoming this situation which is called the resurrection in Christian usage. ”(Darvas: Experiences of God. Perspectives of Unity. Anthroposophy and the Dialogue of Religions, Frankfurt am Main 2009, 21f.)

Steiner himself speaks of how he saved himself from spiritual crises by immersing himself in Christianity, which he found nowhere in the creeds, but instead took from the spiritual world. His “confessing” is a selective but groundbreaking event: the dissolution of the crisis and the fruit of deepening into Christianity. Darvas and Hoffmann extend the pattern of death and resurrection into an allegory for Steiner's spiritual biography. This is also associated with a depotentation, here the “Mystery of Golgotha”. Christ, to whom orthodox anthroposophists refuse to suggest, is no longer the vanishing point of Steiner's spiritual development, but death and resurrection are merely metaphors for phases of Steiner's life. Steiner's Goetheanism, Nietzscheanism, Theosophy, etc. are no longer positions to be taken seriously that Steiner would have actually represented, but rather symptomatic stages on the arc through zero point / Hadesfahrt and resurrection / Damascus experience.

Anthroposophical Reformation. A first interim assessment

One can always be delighted and relieved about the consequences of anthroposophy reformed in this way. (cf. The separation of spirits) From this camp one will hardly be instructed about root races, Atlantean planet oracles and Nazi mysteries. On the other hand, one hears more and more about the “philosophy of freedom”, which is gutted from a transcendental philosophical perspective and turned existentialist. The fact that my book on Steiner's Rassenlehre was able to appear in Info3-Verlag like the annotated edition of Hans Büchenbacher's “Memories” is also due to the fact that the nationalistic, conspiratorial and racist ideologues are seen there as superfluous ballast for “real” anthroposophy. The fact that Christian Clement publishes a solid critical edition of Steiner's main works, however distorted the Steiner image of his forewords is, is due to the fact that the concrete esoteric content for Clement has an improper character compared to Steiner's “ideogenetic” “philosophy of consciousness”, which they merely illustrate would.

Orthodox anthroposophists, and there especially the “European” milieu with its tendency towards anti-American conspiracy theses, consider Clement to be a “destroyer” of Steiner and have repeatedly called for the Info3 faction to be excluded from the Anthroposophical Society. The thrust of their argument against Info3 corresponded to a conclusion that the anthroposophical critic Andreas Lichte also drew on Jens Heisterkamp's “Anthroposophical Spirituality”: Steiner was diluted beyond recognition. Light:

“... 'then I'll make a slit in my dress and find it wonderful': Mr. Heisterkamp can try - and feel great - to create his OWN anthroposophy, only he should then give it his OWN name - with Rudolf Steiner has nothing more to do with the whole thing. "(Lichte, comment from November 3, 2014)

A critique of anthroposophy, which only knows how to criticize its objects on the basis of a more or less close agreement with Steiner, would be blind or at best as helpful as the criticism of traditional anthroposophists of their heterodox co-religionists. Of course, anthroposophical criticism must keep an eye on the real Steiner, as far as he can be inferred from a technical source. But it is also necessary to analyze the reception and transformation of the anthroposophical image of Steiner. I dare to predict that voices in the style of Heisterkamp and Clements will become louder in the next few years, at least on the fringes of the anthroposophical establishment (which is still dominated by the traditional camp and therefore shrinking). With a view to dogmatism, racism, etc. in the anthroposophical milieu, this is also extremely welcome. At the same time, a Gronbach’s or Clement’s Steiner image has long since spread into a new dogma. If the traditional Steiner disciple knows that he is supported by a relationship with the angels, the liberal one knows that the angels stand for "something" "in me", with which I have to connect myself totally radically, individually, creatively and with dedication. The anthroposophical reformers should also add what Marx wrote about Luther:

“Luther, however, defeated bondage out of devotion because he put bondage in its place out of conviction. He broke belief in authority because he restored the authority of belief. He turned the priests into lay people because he turned the lay people into priests. He freed man from outer religiosity because he made religiosity into inner man. He emancipated the body from the chain because he put the heart in chains. But if Protestantism was not the real solution, it was the real position of the task. "
(Marx: On the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, MEW 1, 386)

This also applies to reformed anthroposophy. The “picture-rich” ballast is only shifted more radically from the “higher worlds” to the individual. But here, too, the task is set correctly in two respects: the critique of anthroposophy must not get stuck with Steiner's silly proclamations from Atlantis to Zarathustra, but must focus on the idealistic, objectless inwardness of the self, which is assumed as its epistemic basis and in 'anthroposophical Protestantism' is placed on a pedestal.

The anthroposophical Reformation also sets a task for historical stone research: not only because Christian Clement's stone edition puts the textual basis on a new basis. Above all, David Hoffmann's publications on Steiner and the Nietzsche archive are among the better works on Steiner in general, and the article he quoted on Steiner's spiritual turn is ultimately much more critical of Steiner than Clement's comments in the philological sense. The task that I see is not, however, to take note of texts by Steiner fans; even before that, the anthroposophical literature was logically the basis for the critical discussion. The task may be more of a warning: The fact that the glorified Steiner image of orthodox anthroposophy is now contrasted with the equally perverse of the “philosophical” picture maker-individualist Steiner shows once again the variety of ideological upheavals in his work, each of which can be esoterically hypostatized. One has to resist the attempt to unambiguously determine, as the example of Clement's blurring of the supernatural claim to knowledge shows.

January 12th, 2015 at 2:59 pm18 comments

"The main enemy is England": Review of Markus Osterrieder at Info3

While anthroposophists received Markus Osterrieder's carefully researched conspiracy paper on the First World War largely positively (see anthroposophical historical revisionism), the December issue of Info3 gave me space for some critical questions about Osterrieder's 1,700-page monograph on the First World War. The article is also available online.

More on the topic on this blog:

Georg Klemp: Review of Markus Osterrieder: World in Transition.

Peter Staudenmaier: Nationalist Cosmopolitanism: Anthroposophists and the First World War (Interview)

"The karma of untruthfulness"


December 4th, 2014 at 12:46 pmLeave a comment

Volume 7 of the critical Steiner edition: Anthroposophical "knowledge training" and theoretical questions in esoteric research from Christian Clement to Olav Hammer

"We are not dealing with weird anomalies that conflict with our knowledge of how reality is, so that scholars should refuse to lend credence to them or dismiss them as irrational or crazy delusions. On the contrary, specific types of unusual experiences and bodily phenomena are simply to be expected if one exposes people to specific psychophysiological conditions, for instance in a ritual context or through applying spiritual techniques. Particularly if this happens in the framework of an esoteric worldview or symbolic system that has the capacity of integrating such experiences in a meaningful context… This hiatus will not be filled unless scholars in the field are willing to combine expertise in such domains as anthropology, psychology , neurobiology or cognitive studies, with precise textual study of the source materials of Western Esotericism. "
- Wouter Hanegraaff: Western Esotericism, London et al. 2013, 97, 101

A critical edition of Rudolf Steiner's main works (SKA) has been published by Fromman-Holzboog since 2013. Volume 7 (of eight), Steiner's “Writings on Knowledge Training” has just been published after Steiner's writings on mysticism (vol. 5) were first edited in 2013. The foreword comes from the pen of Gerhard Wehr, whom Helmut Zander called the "father of critical Steiner research". Wehr has also written a book about Steiner and C. G. Jung, and the comparison of the anthroposophical "training" with its depth psychology runs through the volume. In a very long and incredibly multifaceted introduction, editor Christian Clement leads to the two published writings of Steiner: "How do you acquire knowledge of the higher worlds?" (1904/5) and "The stages of higher knowledge" (1905-1908). The former was revised many times by Steiner, from which one can follow the continuous development, elaboration and change of his conception of supernatural "knowledge". Texts from Steiner's personal work as an esoteric “teacher” who instructed mantras and meditations, as well as from his adaptation of Masonic rites are printed in the appendix to the edition. The job comments offer the greatest benefit: here intrinsic references to the work are meticulously worked out and the historical contexts of Steiner's “training path” are presented, from the German classical period through romanticism and mesmerism to Steiner's direct theosophical models. Clement's historical contextualization hides important parts of Steiner's self-image and saves entire segments of the relevant secondary literature, but often moves the questions that are systematically relevant there as well. In the following, I therefore try to combine a discussion of Clement's theses with their feedback on theoretical and methodological questions in esoteric research.

Genesis of the "training path"

In “How to obtain knowledge” (hereinafter: WE), Steiner follows a theosophical path of knowledge that should be followed through all kinds of character training and meditative techniques, initially also through the guidance of a spiritual teacher (as part of the “esoteric school” of the Theosophical Society) . The goal was the development of "higher organs", and through this then seeing a real spiritual world, in a state of consciousness that eliminates the differences between the external and psychological internal world. A continuation of the volume that was always announced never appeared. In “The Levels of Higher Knowledge” (hereinafter: SE), Steiner worked out a parallel, but in large part completely differently conceived, program: This is where the concepts of “imagination” and “which are far more central to the anthroposophical reception of Steiner and many of his lectures” appear. Inspiration ”and“ Intuition ”as three stages of clairvoyant development and future evolution.

Above all, the “How to obtain…”, which Steiner revised heavily in 1914 and 1918, shows itself to be an editorially extensive company. Especially because, as Clement rightly criticizes, the content and genetic development of this text, which is documented in this volume, was mostly ignored. "Rather, there is a tendency to be found in anthroposophical literature at all, to see the book as a work of one piece and to ignore even obvious disparate elements resulting from the successive genesis and the later development of the text." (LXXXIIIf.) Clement shows once again that Steiner's “training path” originally comes from theosophical models, as well as his personally formulated instructions to esoteric students.

"Above all, Besant's book 'The Path of Discipleship', which emerged from lectures as well as Steiner's from essays, must be seen as a direct model and source for WE in terms of content and form ... For the descriptions of the content of mental and spiritual perception, however, As with the drafting of 'Theosophy' (cf. SKA 6), Charles Leadbeater was another important point of reference for Steiner ... In addition, as far as concrete exercise instructions and meditation content are concerned, Blavatsky's' Voice of the Silence 'and Mabel Collins' Light on the Past 'is important sources. From received letters and exercise instructions for students it can be inferred that Steiner initially took over the texts and exercises to be found in these writings and then gradually replaced them with his own, although basic motifs and structures were retained. "( XXXVII)

Clement looks even deeper, however, by tracing the spiritistic and mesmeristic sources of theosophical meditation down to their sublimated traces in Steiner's work. (cf. XXXVIII) Steiner initially understood the “initiation” as a ritual, personal and local fixed phenomenon, while in later editions of WE he more and more relativized the role of the esoteric teacher and instead a safe, individually and without teacher authority feasible path to higher insight propagated. (cf. CXX) Clement points out that Steiner could never completely dissolve to one side the dialectic of authority and autonomy inherent in the conception of esoteric initiation. Clement viewed Steiner's authoritarian pose critically (cf. XXVII), more on this in the section below Syncretism as a constituent of esoteric epistemology.

This side of mysticism

In the foreword, Gerhard Wehr points out parallels between Steiner and medieval Christian mysticism, which were already the subject of volume 5 of the SKA; Wehr particularly emphasizes Jakob Böhme and Thomas von Kempen. Clement also sees the parallels to mysticism, but his dense contextualization work makes it possible to see the underlying function of the mystics for Steiner's theosophy, instead of just pointing out possible similarities and correspondences. An example: Steiner quotes (by the way not only in this context) the sentence “If the rose adorns itself, it adorns the garden too” (SKA 7, 110), which comes from Angelus Silesius (i.e. Johann Scheffler). Clement knows how to discover both the mystical sources of this allusion and its parallels to theosophy, but also to emphasize Steiner's specific political and ideological backgrounds. In the commentary on the quoted Silesius sentence it says:

“In terms of content, the idea can also be found in theosophical writings, cf. for example Besant's' Path ', where it says from the' disciple ':' Everything that he gains, he gains for all; everything that he wins, he wins for all ‘(Besant [1896], 105).A letter to Günther Wagner dated January 2, 1905 throws an interesting light on the question of why Steiner kept referring to this mystic in particular, although Scheffler did not write any actual theoretical texts of any importance: "Our E [soteric] .S [chool] .- Members should first know the following: 'The German theosophical movement is of particular importance. The Germans are the avant-garde of the sixth sub-race and will become more and more aware of this mission. They should do so in all humility. They should immerse themselves in their own idealists. ‘This is Master's voice. And in addition: 'Read your great idealists: J.G. Fichte, Jacob Böhme, but especially Angelus Silesius ‘." (GA 264, 85) (Clement, 297)

As I said, this is only an example of the agile and clever contextualization work that this edition does. Even those who already know the different editions and revision steps of WE will discover some unexpected backgrounds and some hidden literary allusions by Steiner. Clement always points out the dimension of this side of Steiner's journeys to the hereafter: For him, it is a question of "translating meditation into tangible political and social projects", bringing the "higher alertness acquired in meditative work" into "concrete everyday reality". (XXVI) At this point, Clement does not refer to Anna-Katharina Dehmelt (“Institute for Anthroposophical Meditation”) for the only time, from whom he also adopts many reflections on the genesis of Steiner's path of training. Volume 7 of the SKA is actually what Helmut Zander saw initiated with Volume 5: a “turning point”. With the availability of this volume, Steiner's training path will be read in a new light and with a deeper understanding. This will undoubtedly continue to instill fear and terror among orthodox anthroposophists. (see Willy, Thomas and the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing)

Multifaceted contextualization and ideological distortion

In many respects, Clement's introduction goes beyond a purely philological and edition-historical classification of the edited texts, always with the appropriate reference “that the full spectrum of anthroposophical knowledge training would not be considered if one only took into account the writings of Steiner printed in this volume not his complete works. ”(XCIII) Steiner's psychology and anthropology are always integrated. Clement compares the contents of the two books on "Knowledge Training" with Steiner's Freemasonry, "Knowledge Cult" or Mystery Dramas and above all points out how much remains scientifically open and to be clarified. Particularly noteworthy are some groundbreaking considerations on Steiner's philosophy of language (XCVII-CI), because of course the suggestive power of language must be included in the context of esoteric instructions, which is only intended to illustrate the diverse ways in which psycho-invasive techniques such as the meditations described must be scientifically investigated ( t) en.

In this regard, Clement's introduction, which thanks to the passage comments always remains aware of the dependencies in the history of ideas, is a courageous text, so to speak on the pulse of contemporary esoteric research. "On the other hand ... the waters in which Steiner fished were not so dissimilar to those in which the pioneers of modern psychotherapy fished," writes Clement. (CIII) With regard to a comparison of psychotherapy Freudian and Jungian methods, Clement goes even further than Helmut Zander and Miriam Gebhardt in their Steiner biographies. (See The Visit of the Dead Aunt) However, he does not come to the simple identification of pastoral-therapeutic implications of Steiner's “training” with psychoanalysis: “Between neomystical esotericism and scientifically operated depth psychology as characteristic phenomena of European fin de siècle Rudolf Steiner's writings occupy a peculiar middle position for the training of knowledge. ”(XXXIII) And that is not the only aspect: from Schiller's“ higher man ”to the otherworldly escapades of Faust II, Clement searches for parallels and models. One notices that he would rather blame Steiner on Goethe than Blavatsky, yet he does not marginalize the direct role model function of theosophy for Steiner's "knowledge training".

By no means all central aspects are dealt with by Clement: A downright disfiguring loophole is the neglect of Steiner's primary goal empirical science from the “spiritual world”, Clement tries to interpret Steiner as a phenomenologist of consciousness and the contents of the higher worlds as a purely figurative-symbolic expression for spiritual-monistic self-experience. Peter Staudenmaier's criticism (in: Between Occultism and Fascism, 21) that Clement reproduces “standard anthroposophical assumptions” is simply wrong - anthroposophists have always taken Steiner's empirical scientificism very seriously. Clement, however, makes himself an advocate for completely different things.

An equally serious gap: Steiner's continuation of the esoteric "training" in the "Free University of Spiritual Science" in the 1920s is neglected in Clement's volume to such an extent that essential late positions of Steiner and the practice of "class hours" up to the present day Anthroposophy can be practically ignored.

The volume is by no means representative of Steiner's positions on “knowledge training”, even in outline. The relevant anthroposophical and religious studies literature on the subject is also only partially taken into account.

Reductionist Steiner image

One obvious point of criticism Clement made of Steiner was that Steiner's phenomenology of the spiritual world was all too vivid and plastic. Clement does not consider that this could be the goal of a clairvoyant, but speaks of a "not unusual illustration and reification of inner experiences" in the esoteric tradition (whatever that should be). (XXVIII) A “critical reader” would have to ask “whether and to what extent Steiner broke with his own intellectual past and with all the conventions of a critical-philosophical discourse and possibly fell into the very 'naive metaphysical realism' that he himself had ten years before ... had fought passionately. "(ibid) And further:

“Shouldn't one, especially in the sense of his early work, see the 'lotus flowers', 'astral bodies' or 'threshold guardians' described by Steiner as figures that he himself, like Faust his Helena, conjured up from the 'incense mist' of his own imagination? And do you not fall into boundless confusion and dreaming, like the Goethean ghost seer, if you naively mistake these self-created foggy figures for 'realities'? ... With this Steiner made a fundamental decision which justified his rise to the leading figure of modern occidental esotericism, but which had a fatal effect on the academic and public reception of his writings after 1904. "(ibid, XXVIIIf.)

Clement does not formulate the consequences of these points of criticism. And he is not ready to take Steiner's intellectual development as a theosophical explorer of the spiritual worlds seriously. Rather, the late Steiner is reduced to the early philosophical work wherever he no longer agrees with the early philosophical work. However, it cannot be denied that Steiner actually broke with the “critical-philosophical discourse”. Instead, he embarked on a new discourse not considered as such by Clement: that of a quasi-scientific discussion of supernatural circumstances and circumstances, as becomes clear in his critical discussion of Leadbeater's “exploration” of the aura and its colors. Apparently, Clement Steiner cannot admit belief in transcendence. That may be a legitimate perspective, provided that it appears critical of Steiner: Of course, Steiner's visions are “inner experiences” which, to hypostatize real existing mental states and beings, represent a dogmatic position.

But it does not follow that Steiner is therefore self was only of the opinion that it was a matter of merely internal experiences that managed without a spiritual-supersensible object. So tragically, Clement denies the sense and purpose of Steiner's Geistesschau - to penetrate the spiritual side of the cosmos with scientific precision and bring back valid knowledge that can then be realized in education, medicine, etc. - and denies it per se. Clement's approach shows up here as ideological instead of analytical.

What Steiner said about the “higher worlds” is merely “a representation of the philosophy of consciousness in the spirit of Kant and Fichte, i.e. ... a phenomenology of the content of human consciousness. According to Steiner, the only being that a person encounters in meditation is ultimately his own, and that at the same time as individual-personal and universally-absolute. ”(XXIX) As a justification for this, only one of Walter Johannes Stein's should be handed down on the spot use Steiner's oral testimony. Clement turns Steiner's esoteric epistemology into its opposite: the spiritual world is shifted into a human subject that is solipsistic on the one hand and inflated to the absolute on the other. Even the big names Kant and Fichte cannot be incorporated into this position, which is wrongly subordinated to Steiner. Kant saw in reason the medium that produces subjectively objectively valid thoughts and necessities for thought, but for him the intelligible realm was just to be thought, not to be experienced. Concepts without (sensual) intuition remained blind to him, so that one can hardly speak of a phenomenology of consciousness here. If, on the other hand, I had earlier agreed to Clement's assessment that Fichte's theory of the spirit world was actually only a pictorial description of phenomenological acts of consciousness, I had to let Hartmut Traub teach me better:

“The fact that Fichte's approach to esotericism and the occult is more serene Protestant than exuberant and pictorial Catholic like Steiner does not change the fact that Fichte has a certain closeness, if not affinity to the occult. A move that, if one follows I. H. Fichte's reports about his parents' house, was also supported by Johanne Marie Fichte, the philosopher's wife. One last thing: you pointed out the difference between Steiner's assumption of objective occult beings and the more subject-theoretical character in Fichte's doctrine of “higher seeing”. I can only agree with that to a certain extent. Because in Fichte's theory of the spirit realm, the “ideal individuality” (originality) of the individual person relates to other, thoroughly objective spirits. ”(The“ optics of the spirit ”and the“ spirit ”of the occult. A conversation with Hartmut Traub)

Apparently, Clement makes the preliminary decision that is not substantiated in terms of content to discuss the development after 1900 with Steiner and to give his meditative "instructions and descriptions in the light of his previously published epistemological and philosophical writings" alone to read. (XXX) This reductionist reading is opposed by Steiner's unequivocal statements about legions, in a brief formulation, for example: “We must always be clear that what the clairvoyant sees is not an allegorical-symbolic designation, but that the essence are. "(GA 121, 161) Steiner writes in WE, after he has described the" guardian of the threshold ", whose appearance actually has a symbolic or metaphorical effect in order to clear that out:" What is indicated here, dressed in a narrative, one does not have to think of oneself as something symbolic, but as a highly real experience of the secret student ”(SKA 7, 145) Clement rightly suggests that Steiner in the new edition of WE from 1914 reinforced references to his descriptions“ not in the To misunderstand naive senses as objects or things. ”(ibid., CXV) To conclude from this that Steiner rejected objects of higher knowledge, is wrong. Instead, Steiner pointed out the qualitative difference between sensual and supersensible objects of knowledge.

Clement's favorite example to illustrate his theory is Steiner's depiction of the colors of the astral body, which he mostly argues that a "blue" color is not really blue in the optical sense. After all, the astral body is initially distinguished from all blue physical objects by its invisibility - the improper character of Steiner's description of higher worlds, which Clement suggests counterfactually, is in no way proven. Another example. Steiner asserts in WE (p. 150f.), “That in the higher intuition the human inner world, one's own instincts, desires and ideas are shown in outer figures as well as other objects and beings.” Clement writes that here aloud Steiner's “ideas of the afterlife” are a “mirror of one's own mental and spiritual activity”. (298) Steiner, however, immediately states that the “world of ideas” that the subject confronts like an outside world is not already the spiritual world, but that the latter only becomes visible after these subjective worlds have been mastered: “It is absolutely necessary that the student go through the spiritual sight of your own soul in order to advance to higher things ... Not only in the figurative but in the very real sense you are dealing with a birth in the spiritual world. ”(WE, 155)

With his distortions, Clement does serious damage to the value of the edition. In contrast to Jens Heisterkamp's similar withdrawal of Steiner's metaphysical worldview, which is, however, characterized as a decidedly selective interpretation (cf. Jens Heisterkamp's "Anthroposophical Spirituality"), this reinterpretation of Steiner's originality in a critical edition is at best legitimate as an interpretation hypothesis, even if it would be a weak one.

Clement and the recent discussion about a critical history of anthroposophy

Clements' central reference is largely the first historical contextualization of Steiner's “training path” within the framework of theosophical literature and the “esoteric school”, the spiritual one, presented by Helmut Zander (Anthroposophy in Germany, Göttingen 2007, 580-615, 696-721) Arcane area of ​​the Theosophical Society. In contrast to Volume 5 of the SKA, in the introduction of which Clement Zander's position on the esoteric conversion of Steiner was dealt with apologetically (cf. “The Mysticism in the Rise”, The color of the astral body is a private matter), the current book contains a congenial discussion. Clement contradicts that SE represents a completely epistemological "new approach" to WE, as Zander had claimed. The continuities are evident in Clement's foreword and in the text-critical commentaries, and the editor of the SKA rightly writes that “the peculiarity of this writing will probably be bettered if you make it your task to examine how and why Steiner despite more in-depth content Agreement in SE has chosen a conceptually, stylistically and methodologically completely different path than in WE. "(SKA 7, CXXV)

At the same time, Clement puts the anthroposophical anti-Zander polemics in its place: in spite of some convincing examples, the writings of Karen Swassjan and Lorenzo Ravagli are “characterized by fierce polemics and, for their part, also reveal ideological biases by referring to the formal and content-wise rightly pointed out by Zander Problems of Steiner's texts hardly ever go into account… ”(LXXIII) In many cases, Zander's discussion of the heterogeneities and developments in Steiner's texts is more detailed, but this is not surprising, because the textual changes that Zander discusses are all printed in the critical edition and while reading the texts are unmistakable. In part, Clement's introduction leaves Zander's pioneering study far behind, for example when it is shown that Steiner's interventions in terms of content were also found in the new edition of WE 1918, which Zander, who had concentrated on the leaps in the 1914 edition, simply did not investigate , yes denied. (cf. CIV) Clement clearly states, however, that even with his introduction, the history of texts and ideas of Steiner's educational path is still in a pioneering phase. Admittedly, this is not a sufficient justification for the indicated massive gaps and distortions that Clement's contextualization contains, but it is still a partial explanation. The rule here is that those who have worked hard can afford mistakes.

Kiersch, Heindel, Hanegraaff. Neglect of the relevant literature and theoretical discussion (I)

It is simply irritating that Johannes Kiersch's monumental ideogenetic reconstruction of the “School of Spiritual Science” and of Steiner's role as esoteric teacher does not appear with Clement.The neglected representation of the "university" could at least have been weakened by referring to this work! Clement's remarks about Steiner as an esoteric teacher keep falling behind Kiersch's account. (cf. Johannes Kiersch: Steiner's individualized esotericism then and now. On the history of the School of Spiritual Science, 2nd edition, Dornach 2012) Clement's pale chapter on the history of the reception of “knowledge training” would also have found rich material here, at least for internal anthroposophical reception. In this chapter, Clement also does not mention the more recent anthroposophical meditation movements (from Anna-Katharina Dehmelt to Robin Schmidt to the “Formative forces” movement), let alone non-anthroposophical recipients: Max Heindel, for example, who is as close to Steiner as he is to theosophy or the lectorium Rosicrucianum, which in turn split off from Heindel's "Rosicrucian Fellowship". Above all, Heindel's reception of Steiner (which he, like Steiner, did not want to have interpreted as such in his reception of theosophy) would actually have been inevitable because important points of reference emerge here (Rosicrucian, cult of knowledge, concrete meditation techniques). As a result, Clement's comments on the reception of Steiner's training path simply ignore the real situation. Again: what a shame!

One must also add that Clement's analysis remains almost blind to the religious studies eye, if you please. Although he points very precisely to the practical, psychological, ritual and aesthetic dimensions of the “path of training”, which manifested themselves in Freemasonry, mystery theater and the esoteric school, the ritual theories, which are actually indispensable here, do not find any resonance with Clement. (For an introduction, see Jens Kreinath / Jan Snoek / Michael Strausberg (eds.): Theorizing Rituals. Issues, Topics, Approaches, Concepts, Leiden 2006) The introduction and commentary on Steiner's texts is also relevant in the context of more recent scientific research on esotericism. The SKA is also presented on the website of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), of which Clement is a member. It is a shame that he only took note of the material contributions by esoteric researchers in exceptional cases (or in one of Karl Baier's great study “Meditation and Modernity” [2009])!

For example, the literature on theosophy that is conceivably relevant for Steiner is not sufficiently taken into account. (For an initial overview, see Olav Hammer / Mikael Rothenstein: Handbook of the Theosophical Current, Leiden 2013) Clement's detailed comparison of Steiner's ideas with their theosophical sources (especially Blavatsky, Besant, Leadbeater ...) in the position comments and one that is as detailed as it is permanent Confrontation with Baier, who evaluates a lot of material on this, nevertheless leads to a rather extensive disclosure of Steiner's theosophical context.

In spite of everything, Clement moves up to date with current questions in "esoteric research". The currently most prominent representative of this field, Wouter Hanegraaff, recently pointed out the desideratum of analyzes of esoteric “practice”. (cf. Hanegraaff: Western Esotericism. A Guide for the Perplexed, London et al. 2013, 102-118) Among other things, there is “the Problem of (crypto) Protestant bias. Classical approaches to the study of religion have been heavily influenced by Protestant assumptions… resulting in a structural over-emphasis on doctrine and belief and a corresponding lack of attention to ritual and other forms of practice. “(Ibid, 103) He counts the following typical Dimensions and claims of esoteric practices, which of course could all be linked or isolated and which can all be found at Steiner: 1. Control, 2. Knowledge, 3. Amplification, 4. Healing, 5. Progress, 6. Contact, 7 Unity, 8. Pleasure. (ibid, 104) Among many other things, Hanegraaff points out the problems with sources and methods of researching esoteric practice, which also apply one to one to anthroposophy, only among other things the "esoteric school", Steiner's masonry rituals and the meanwhile established conventions anthroposophic meditation:

"There is often no great need to describe religious practice in detail: in most cases, religious practioners learn by oral instruction, daily experience or observation and imitation of 'how things are done', and have very little need of written reminders about what everybody knows. As a result, we are usually better informed about religious or esoteric beliefs than about practices ... even if we have sources ..., they tend to be incomplete ... Finally, there is a problem of method. Even if the importance of practice is acknowledged in principle, it is not easy to decide on appropriate methodologies for studying it. Anthropologists have built up much experience with participant reasearch, and have become increasingly interested in contemporary forms of esotericism, but attempts to apply anthropological approaches to historical materials remain a relative exception. "(Ibid, 102f.)

Clement's approach does not go in this direction, but the same methodological problems haunted him: that meditative, contemplative, psychoactive and ritual practices in anthroposophy cannot be dealt with purely in terms of the history of ideas, on this he apparently agrees with Hanegraaff's approach. He advocates considering the pedagogical-didactic, aesthetic and psychotherapeutic consequences and dimensions of anthroposophy as central approaches to understanding the intentions, contents and concretions of Steiner's “spiritual training”. Clement even goes one step further: “Not only the historians, philologists, philosophers and theologians, but also and perhaps even more so the artists, psychologists, therapists and educators” are asked whether the “views and practices that Steiner used from the theosophists took over and ... transformed it into the anthroposophical path of knowledge, is still relevant today ... "(SKA 7, CIII)

To be sure, that would be asking too much to clarify in a philological edition. In addition, one would assume that not only the practical aspect, but also its factual goal, scientifically 'objective' knowledge of supersensible world and essential areas, would be taken into account in an edition on Steiner's 'knowledge training'. Clement, however, interprets Steiner's descriptions in this regard (which is just as instructive as in this one-sidedness falsifying) as a pictorial description of a phenomenology of consciousness, the objects of which are to be sought somewhere between German idealism, C. G. Jung and Faust's walk into the realm of the mothers.

Syncretism as a constituent of esoteric epistemology. Neglect of the relevant literature and theoretical discussion (II)

With regard to the latter, another volume rich in material would have been instructive: Olav Hammers “Claiming Knowledge. Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to New Age ”(Leiden 2004